Blaine Brownell has kept busy since appearing on the November/December 2006 cover of ARCHITECT, as “The Materials Man.” He's writing a book about his discoveries in Japan as a Fulbright research fellow. He's become a visiting architecture professor at the University of Michigan, where he just installed a wall constructed from plastic water bottles. And he's produced a sequel to Transmaterial, his popular catalog of innovative architectural products and materials.
It seems like every product manufacturer has caught the green wave, developing new materials or remaking old ones in a sustainable way. For Transmaterial 2, Brownell sought out the best of this crop. Several items in the new book came to his attention during his time in East Asia, but his research uncovered materials from around the globe. “The impetus for this book was to have a range of materials from various countries and cultures,” he says.
Entries in the book are organized by a product's materiality, in straightforward categories such as concrete, wood, glass, plastic, light, and digital. Brownell classifies each entry according to trends he has identified in the world of eco-technology, such as ultraperforming, intelligent, and repurposed. “Virgin resources are rapidly dwindling,” Brownell says, “so there's a big push to rethink materials. It's about conflating a number of trends together for a more proactive approach to environmental responsibility.”
Although passionate about every material in the book, Brownell shared a few favorites with ARCHITECT.